Tag Archives: BBC

User Generating Children


Newsround has always had a tricky brief: making world news accessible to children who would probably have preferred it if CBBC had left the cartoons on. So UGC has been the programme’s key way of engaging the naturally narcissistic young; remember watching some lucky child’s Press Pack report back in the day? Fast forward fifteen years and the bustling Newsround website has given the programme a host of extra strings to its audience-engagement bow.

Keeping it Young

Some of the UGC is very distinct to a young audience…

The chatrooms too are buzzing, and host not just discussions on major news stories, but also other threads more immediately relevant to the programme’s target audience of 6 to 12 year-olds:

As with adult sites, children are invited to send in pictures and clips, comment on articles, add personal music reviews, vote in polls. And yes, the Press Pack tradition is still going strong. (For the uninitiated, this is an opportunity for children to send in their story ideas. If picked, they get to present a report on their story which is then aired on the main programme). The site, in short, is positively dripping with opportunities for child-friendly and child-directed UGC:

Why it Works

Is it that children are just greatly inclined to engage with the media in the hope of seeing their name on the screen? Well, no, actually. Whizz over to the online home of Young Times, the Times newspaper’s children’s section. Like Newsround, no one could accuse them of lacking child-friendliness:

But, riveting though this issue is for 6 to 12 year olds, no one has taken up the offer of leaving a comment. In fact, out of the seven stories featured on YT’s front page, only one has a comment. Of course, the comparison with the Newsround site is not strictly fair: the latter is part of the national child psyche, and many more children will visit its website. But that’s not the only difference.

What the Times, and other similarly underused children’s pages such as First News have tried to do is foist drier, adult-style UGC opportunities onto a young audience, and it doesn’t work. Children evidently demand more scope to direct the content themselves and thereby make an adult site their own. Any hint of top-down management and the site takes on the fatal whiff of a homework project. Children’s UGC can play a bigger role than in adult news, but you’ve got to put them in the driving seat.

CARON BELL

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A SXSW panel on UGC and censorship, via twitter


We couldn’t make it to SXSW in Texas because we’re stuck in rainy old Blighty but when  we heard about a panel debate called The User Generated Revolution, Social Media Overcoming Censorship we followed the tweets compulsively. And we thought we should make it easy for you to do the same. Below are some hand-picked reactions from Josh Halliday of The Guardian, Joanna Geary of the Times, Jonathan Cohen, founder of Support Local Grow Together in Austin and panellist Sanam Dolatshahi.

Lots of comments of the importance of verifying the accuracy of UGC news

So it seems that

Those priorities winning support
http://twitter.com/#!/JRCohen/status/46956290173440000

But it’s not all that easy…

Especially given that

And important because

And finally, a perhaps unexpected insight that…

Here’s the background:

The panel featured 4 BBC journos, Abi Sawyer from BBC World Service Future Media, Julian Siddle, creator of the tech programme Digital Lifestyles, Raymond Li, head of BBC Chinese and Sanam Dolatshahi, presenter and producer on BBC Persia’s Interactive program Nowbat-e Shoma (Your Turn). Here’s the blurb for the event:

Social media is becoming an essential tool for activists in repressive societies. In 2009 the Iranian government expelled foreign media and jammed international broadcasts. For the BBC’s Persian TV emails, video, Twitter and Facebook postings from Iran became the main source of news. Groundbreaking stories were complied using material from viewers and listeners – often sent in with great personal risk to themselves. In the Xingjian province of China government censors were defeated by a tweet – news of a popular uprising amongst the regions Uighurs in this remote province leaked out to the world’s media. A military clampdown ensued, but not before foreign media got to the region and heard the Uighurs grievances. Conversely the oppressors use the same social media tools, partly to spread disinformation about their activities, but also in the cases of groups such as the Taliban, to push their beliefs. The panel will discuss how censorship and suppression is made more and more difficult to hide by the social media revolution, and the impact of this for traditional media organisations.

HARRIET BIRD

Can UGC topple the regime?


For almost a week now the Egyptian protests have  dominated the news agenda.

Non stop rolling images of burning trucks, marches and adrenaline fuelled Egyptians (while the army and police look on) have taken centre stage as  tens of thousands take to the streets to protest against Hosni Mubarak’s thirty year presidency.

Courtesy of Egyptian citizen and friend Islam Harouf

Old protest v New protest

Social protest in Egypt and the wider Middle East is nothing new, but this time the internet and UGC has played a vital part in organising protestors and relaying real time images to the world’s media.

In Iran in 1979 for example the proliferation of tapes of Khoemini preaching did much to whip the Iranians into a frenzy. In 1990, the Gulf War was the first time satellites were used to produce real time images of fighting and conflict. In 2011, social networking sites, particularly twitter, facebook and youtube as well as camera and video phones have been instrumental in keeping us up-to-date as well as organising protesters.

Courtesy of Egyptian citizen and friend Islam Harouf

The April 6th movement for example, by far the most active and well known of all the protest movements has used blogs, facebook and twitter for years to spread the news of the protests and mobilize people.

And Sherine Barakat, interviewed on BBC news said of Egypt, “Today every person is a journalist.” It is no secret that Egyptians love the internet and that postings of film, images and twitter made by ordinary Egyptians armed with camera phones has appeared on the pages of the BBC, al-jazeera and other news agencies and channels across the world as well as keeping friends, family and other loved ones in the loop.

Courtesy of Egyptian citizen and friend Islam Harouf

In fact the internet has proved to be so dangerous that the government disconnected it on Thursday evening. Thats 80 million people offline. All April6th correspondence ends then.

What does this mean? Several things. The Government is scared.  Mubarak has realised that pictures are powerful.Violence could erupt – after all who is left monitoring unfolding events.

Or it could be the final nail in Mubarak’s coffin. The Egyptian people don’t look like they are backing down, but so far neither does he.

masr inshallah kulu qweies (Egypt, god willing all will be good)

Seeing is Believing: the Value of Transparency


Ask a media organisation about their motives for encouraging user interactivity, and they will mention such worthies as democratisation, reciprocity and authenticity. But the evolution of UCG was partly a consequence of, and important contributor to, a growing desire for transparency in the journalistic process.

The Workshop

Going are the days when news is handed to you on a plate at set mealtimes, well cooked and prepared behind the kitchen door. These days, there is no shame in letting the consumers see the work in progress. On the contrary, it’s an advantage: the consumer is then able to credit the source for themselves. It’s a trend that began with the addition of newsroom offices into the background of news studio sets, and continues now in the overt and relentless requests for first-hand information.

Dealing with the Complicated

In covering a large, chaotic event like the student fees protests in December, the BBC was criticised for patchy and delayed coverage (most notably regarding the apparent assault on wheelchair user Jody McIntyre) – its viewers had myriad feeds of alternative eye-witness information from a young, technically alert protest body, and understandably the BBC couldn’t keep up with it all. But its delayed response was also testament to the aforementioned mindset of yore – that reporting the news means churning out a series of finished, pre-validated products, albeit products sourced from new media.

Looking Busy

But the trend of transparency means even the process of basic fact-checking can be an open, interactive one. Had the BBC dealt with its complex task by focusing its work on validation through witnesses using Twitter and other media, it would have quietened the howls of criticism. If rumours are circulating, the BBC needed to be discussing them. It’s the only way to maintain journalistic credibility in the face of a social media avalanche; official journalistic bodies no longer have the monopoly on information. As modern consumers become more used to having their journalism built before them, they will increasingly come to assume that if they can’t see it, it isn’t happening. It will be interesting to see if the student fees protest is the last time the BBC does itself such an avoidable disservice.

CARON BELL

UGC: What’s in it for you?


‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ has been snapping at the media’s heels for many decades. It’s a clear example of the most obvious reason people contribute to the media – to put forward their point of view, both on the news and the way it’s presented. The outlets for doing this are many and varied, and the potential size of audience beyond Disgusted’s wildest dreams.

Selecting

All mainstream newspaper websites allow online comment to be added to stories, but that’s just the start. The Daily Mail is one of many employing a rating system; comments consistently recommended by other users rise to the top of the list. It is a cunningly democratic way of sorting thoughtful wheat from reactionary chaff, whilst adding all-important kudos to the process; not only can your views be published, but they can also win credibility from other users. The BBC takes this a step further – on their news site, the best comments are often added to the the main body of text, and become part of the ‘official’ journalism.

Critiquing

But there’s more to contributing than simply letting off steam. There’s an opportunity to actually drive a media outlet’s agenda. BBC programmes Feedback and Points of View are classic examples. These are all about discussing audience reaction, based on a selection of positive and negative contributions. The relevant BBC bigwig is hauled in to explain an approach, and often to promise to do better. The corporation clearly wants its audiences to know it cares. The fact it’s openly sensitive to criticism actually drives the audience participation – they know they can make a difference.

Democratising

This, then, is the buzzword, and with it a sense of involvement. Today’s viewers won’t put up with being talked at. Not only do they feel the right to talk back, they also want the right to create. Technology makes contributions easier, but that’s not the only reason behind the sea-change in user-generated content. A vivid eye-witness report or grainy footage from a well-placed smartphone validate audience experience, and give coverage an open, relavant feel. The need for democratisation of good journalism is a popular public sentiment. Disgusted is happy to help.

CARON BELL